Police (Northern Ireland) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:45 pm on 8th November 2000.

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Photo of Lord Phillips of Sudbury Lord Phillips of Sudbury Liberal Democrat 6:45 pm, 8th November 2000

My Lords, I am grateful for that information. I would not seek to deny it. However, I would suggest that the view of Sinn Fein and the view of the Catholic Church are not all commanding in Northern Ireland. The fact that 7 per cent of the RUC at the moment are Roman Catholics is evidence of that; the fact that the numbers applying to enter the RUC have risen from 11 per cent to 22 per cent since the Belfast agreement is evidence of that.

I suggest that the best thing we can do in this House is to reach out to the majority of reasonable Catholics in Northern Ireland who have some mind of their own; who are influenced by the efforts being made on all sides to try to end these historic divisions. Painful though it is, I believe that Patten did not reach this conclusion in a quixotic frame of mind but on the basis of the extensive soundings and evidence that he and his commission had taken.

I think it was the noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, who made the point that there is at present in Northern Ireland a massive amount of fraud, intimidation and criminality. Plainly, one element in the amelioration of that dreadful state of affairs has to be a more effective police force in the province. For those reasons, I am afraid that I shall have to vote against the proposed amendments.